Scotland business

Scottish firms voice fears over Brexit

A fruit picker bending over
Image caption Soft fruit growers are among businesses concerned about a post-Brexit shortage of workers

Scottish businesses have voiced their fears about the impact of Brexit on staffing, profitability and growth.

Their concerns have been raised in a Scottish government report which called for their voices to be heard as the UK negotiates leaving the European Union.

The report said uncertainty was already affecting a number of sectors.

The UK government said it would work with Scottish ministers to "deliver certainty for people, organisations and businesses across Scotland".

Last week, Chancellor Philip Hammond acknowledged that businesses needed more clarity on Brexit.

In the Scottish government report, Glasgow Airport warned that airlines could lose the legal framework to fly some routes without new agreements being agreed pre-Brexit.

The airport's managing director, Amanda McMillan, said: "A number of airlines have stated they will scale back their UK growth plans, focusing instead on adding capacity at airports in the EU.

"This has the potential to undermine Scotland's connectivity."

The ability to attract and retain staff was cited as a major concern for a number of businesses, including shortbread firm Walkers of Aberlour, which employs around 500 seasonal workers from the EU.

Image copyright Walkers

At the University of Edinburgh, 26% of university staff and 15% of students come from the EU, while Angus Growers warned there was already a 5%-10% shortage of workers in the soft fruit sector.

The freedom of movement was also raised as a concern for the Scottish Professional Football League, which said the existing flexibility to employ players from Europe and around the globe greatly benefited Scottish clubs.

Firms also said they were worried about future opportunities narrowing as a result of leaving the EU, with television production company Maramedia saying it would struggle to maintain its production base in Scotland without EU funding.

Tidal energy company Nova Innovation said access to EU markets, supply chain and free movement of people, would have an impact on future success, while the Scottish Salmon Company (SSC) said remaining in the single market would allow important trade relationships to grow.

'Great deal at stake'

Scotland's Brexit Minister Michael Russell said: "This report articulates the concerns of Scottish businesses as the Brexit clock ticks towards the UK's departure from the EU.

"It is clear that there is a great deal at stake for every business. Their voices must be listened to before irreversible decisions are taken."

A UK government spokesman said: "We have intensified our engagement with the business community to ensure their voice is heard and reflected throughout our negotiations, giving them as much certainty as possible as we move through the exit process.

"As we move forward with negotiations, we will work with the Scottish government to deliver certainty for people, organisations and businesses across Scotland."

'Shambolic negotiation'

Scottish Labour's Brexit spokesman, Lewis Macdonald, said the Conservatives were "presiding over a shambolic Brexit negotiation" and it was no surprise businesses in Scotland were concerned.

Green MSP Ross Greer said: "Employers and unions have rightly been calling for our 180,000 EU citizens to be guaranteed the right to remain whatever the outcome of negotiations.

"Given Scotland's unique need to grow our working population, for the sake of our public services and our economy, this uncertainty needs to end."